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Professor lectures on Aquinas

Mandi Stirone | Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A professor from Boston College said St. Aquinas writings should not be taken literally and should be read skeptically in the opening of the Philosophy Lecture Series at Saint Mary’s Monday.

Eileen Sweeney spoke on “Reading Thomas Aquinas: Myths, Dangers and Virtues” to about thirty audience members in Haggar Hall.

“Aquinas is still, among Catholics, a weapon in the culture wars,” she said, adding that, because his writings aren’t Scripture, “we should be even more skeptical of him.”

Sweeney’s lecture focused on Aquinas’ theories and writings – especially his Summa Theologica. She compared her lecture idea to a “top-10 list.” Sweeney presented three top-six lists – one each on the myths, dangers and virtues of Aquinas’ teachings.

Throughout the lecture, she made various references to the Jesuits’ idea of a verbal examination, referencing her father, who underwent such an examination during his youth. She said she thought her father would be proud since, while teaching at Marquette, she “served on a board of examiners for young Jesuits.”

Sweeney also analyzed Aquinas’ views on humanity before and after the “fall” from the Garden of Eden. He believed that age, gender, size and other features are all results of the “fall” and that only certain aspects of these will be retained after resurrection.

After speaking at length on the dangers and myths associated with Aquinas, Sweeney addressed the virtues.

This portion of the lecture addressed the many differences and similarities Aquinas’ world has with our own.

“The medieval world is more active in our world than we would like to think,” she said.

Students said they attended both for class requirements and to support the philosophy and religious studies departments.

“I’m a religious studies minor and so … to support the majors initiative to put on beneficial lectures,” senior Suzy Swygart said. “It’s just really interesting because Aquinas’ theologies and philosophy have changed ethics, or heavily influenced ethics and philosophy.”

The lecture series is separate from a series on Aquinas presented by the religious studies department.